On Their Way To Being Most Dynamic Duo of All

Nearly all of the most productive wide receiver combinations in Packers history have come within the last 20 years. The Packers have invested just over $79 million over the last eight months in their latest duo, which is in the prime of what could become a prolific run. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY)

So long as Aaron Rodgers is at quarterback, the Green Bay Packers will always be known as a pass-first team.

And so long as Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are at receiver, Rodgers will have not one, but two primary targets.

Cobb’s new contract this offseason (four years, $40 million) secures that he and Nelson — barring any unforeseen circumstances — will be playing together in Green Bay for at least the next four seasons. With good health, the duo is almost a certainty to become the most prolific in Packers history.

For now, that distinction belongs to Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. Playing together from 2006 through 2012, Driver and Jennings combined for 839 catches, 12,040 receiving yards and 86 touchdowns. They are one of a few combinations in team history that got the benefit of playing with not one, but two Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks in Brett Favre and Rodgers.

Not surprisingly, almost all of the top wide receiver pairs for the Packers played with Favre, Rodgers or Bart Starr. Starr threw to a number of talented receivers during his Packers career, starting with Billy Howton and ending with Carroll Dale. But his most productive tandem played together during the middle of his career from 1959 through 1967. Boyd Dowler and Max McGee over that stretch recorded 627 catches (third-most), 10,577 receiving yards (second-most) and 63 touchdowns. Dowler also teamed with Dale for five years (1965-69) for 382 catches and 6,676 yards.

Really, only Sterling Sharpe and Perry Kemp (1988-91) and James Lofton and John Jefferson (1981-84) can come close to productive combos outside of the eras of the “Big Three” quarterbacks in Green Bay. Kemp was more of a complement to Sharpe, who became maybe the most dominant No. 1 receiver in Packers history next to Don Hutson. For Sharpe’s first four years, he played with a number of different quarterbacks, most notably Don Majkowski. Lofton and Jefferson teamed with Lynn Dickey as part of offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker’s high-flying system. Together over four years — one season was limited to nine games due to a players’ strike — they averaged 18.4 yards per catch.

In Driver and Sharpe, Favre played with the top two pass-catching receivers in team history, though neither are a part of his most productive pair together. That achievement goes to Antonio Freeman and Bill Schroeder, who as a twosome from 1997 through 2001 hauled in 578 catches (fourth-most), 8,906 yards (fourth-most) and 67 touchdowns (fifth-most).

In one less season, Cobb and Nelson have one more touchdown than Freeman and Schroeder. While Rodgers has generated the lion’s share of production from the receivers that overlap both he and Favre — a group that includes Driver-Jennings, Jennings-James Jones and Driver-Jones — Nelson and Cobb have steadily moved up the charts. In 2014, they became the first pair in franchise history to each catch 90-plus passes and record at least 1,250 receiving yards in the same season. Their 25 combined touchdown catches were the most by a duo in franchise history.

With 527 catches, 7,890 receiving yards and 68 touchdowns together, Cobb and Nelson are among the top 10 most productive tandems. Four more years together with good health would easily eclipse the marks set by Driver and Jennings.

Only Cobb — in 2013 missing 10 games on temporary injured reserve — has missed a significant stretch of time during his career due to injury. Nelson has played in 116 of a possible 123 games since becoming a regular starter in 2011. Both Cobb and Nelson played in all 18 games (including the playoffs) last season.

At their current pace, Cobb and Nelson would surpass the totals posted by Driver and Jennings together in catches and yards during the 2017 season. With another big season in touchdowns, they could pass Driver and Jennings by the end of next season.

Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com

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